Conservation biology

The tropics are home to more species of animal and plant than anywhere else on the planet, and many of these species are poorly known and/or threatened with extinction. Because we work primarily in the tropics, a core value of this lab is that our scientific research should contribute to conservation of biodiversity when possible. Our research interests include the basic biology, natural history, and conservation requirements of poorly known and endangered species. We also address how perturbations like habitat conversion and fragmentation affect patterns of species diversity and underlying ecological processes. We link this scientific research described on this page to training, education and development programs in priority habitats, as described in our Community partners page.

Much of our work on threatened species takes place in the Ecuadorian Chocó in close collaboration with our partner organization FCAT. We characterize basic biology and conservation requirements to allow coherent and effective conservation planning. We have generated novel information on home range size, habitat preference, breeding biology, nest site selection, and social organization for endangered species like the Banded Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus, the Brown Wood Rail Aramides wolfii and the Long-wattled Umbrellabird Cephalopterus penduliger. This ongoing research complements earlier work on endangered species in other parts of the globe, including macaws in the Amazon, grasswrens in Mallee shrub of South Australia, and trogons in southeastern Arizona.


We are also committed to characterizing the basic natural history of poorly known species, regardless of their conservation status, and documenting general ecological processes in the areas where we work. Poorly known species we have studied include the Red-backed Fairy-wren Malurus melanocephalus and Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus in Australia, the White-shouldered Fairy-wren M. alboscaptulatus in Papua New Guinea, and, in the Ecuadorian Chocó, the Purple-throated Fruit-crow Querula purpurata, Lemon-rumped Tanager Ramphocelus icteronotus, and Green Manakin Chloropipo holochlora. We are also gathering benchmark data sets on patterns of fruit production and avian reproduction in Ecuador and Papu New Guinea. This natural history information, in addition to its inherent merits, often lays the foundation for subsequent studies that test broadly applicable hypotheses.


A related conservation goal is to better how understand the patterns and processes that maintain diversity may be impacted by human activites, and how to lessen these impacts. In Ecuador, we work hand-in-hand with FCAT to addresses these issues, using data collection as a vehicle for environmental education, employment and training to local residents. We have documented how indicator groups such as birds and herpetofauna are impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation. Other topics include identifying priority habitats for Neotropical migrants, and assessing consequences of loss of large avian frugivores like Umbrellabirds to ecological processes like seed dispersal.


Related Publications


Botsch, J.C, S.T. Walter, S.T., J. Karubian, N. González, E. Dobbs, and B.J. Brosi. 2017. Impacts of forest fragmentation on orchid bee diversity (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Euglossini) in the Chocó biodiversity hotspot of northwest Ecuador. Journal of Insect Conservation 21: 633-643. PDF


Browne, L. and J. Karubian. 2016. Diversity of palm communities at different spatial scales in a recently fragmented tropical landscape. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 182: 451-464. PDF


Karubian, J., K. Otwell, A.Link, and A. DiFiori. 2015. Genetic consequences of seed dispersal to sleeping trees by spider monkeys. Acta oecologica 68:50-58. PDF


Browne, L., M. Gonzalez, and J. Karubian. 2015. Biodiversity in forest fragments of the Mache-Chindul Reserve. Quito, Ecuador. PDF


G. F. M. Jongsma, R. W. Hedley, R. Durães, and J. Karubian. 2014. Amphibian Diversity and Species Composition in Relation to Habitat Type and Alteration in the Mache–Chindul Reserve, Northwest Ecuador. Herpetologica 70(1):34-46. PDF


Carrasco, L., Berg, K. S., Litz, J., Cook, A. and J. Karubian. 2013. Avifauna of the Mache-Chindul Reserve, northwest Ecuador. Neotropical Ornithology 24: 331-324. PDF | Appendix


Karubian, J. 2013. Award for Excellence in Tropical Biology and Conservation. Biotropica 45(6) 772-773. PDF | Web


Durães, R., Carrasco, L., Smith, T. B., and J. Karubian. 2013. Relative effects of forest degradation versus fragmentation on avian communities in a Neotropical biodiversity hotspot. Biological Conservation 166: 203-211. PDF


Kraul, C. 2013. Ecology in Action. Tulanian Magazine. PDF – News piece on work in Ecuador


Hinton, M.G., A. Bendelow, S. Lantz, T.W. Wey, L. Schoen, R. Brockett, and J. Karubian. 2013. Patterns of aggression among captive American Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber). Zoo Biology.  PDF


Mila, B., E.S. Tavares, A.M. Saldana, T.B. Smith, J. Karubian and A.J. Baker. 2012. A trans-Amazonian screening of mtDNA reveals deep intraspecific divergence in forest birds and suggests a vast underestimation of species diversity. PloS One 7: e40541. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040541 PDF


Karubian, J., R. Durães, J. Storey, and T.B. Smith. 2012. Mating behavior drives seed dispersal in the long-wattled umbrellabird Cephalopterus penduliger. Biotropica 44: 689-698. PDF *Recipient: 2013 Award for Excellence in Tropical Biology & Conservation


Karubian, J., L. Carrasco, P. Mena, J. Olivo, D. Cabrera, F. Castillo, R. Durães, and N. El Ksabi. 2011. Nesting biology, home range, and habitat use of the brown wood-rail (Aramides wolfi) in northwest Ecuador. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 123: 137-141. PDF


Karubian, J. 2011. The Long-wattled Umbrellabid: the feathered gardeners of the Choco. Terra Incognita 72: 8-18. (July 2011) PDF


Karubian, J. 2010. Pompadours in the palms. Natural History Magazine. 119: 28-32. (February 2010) PDF


Karubian, J. 2009. The secret life of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird. El Commercio Newspaper, Ecuador (May 10, 2009) PDF


Karubian, J. and L. Carrasco. 2008. Home range and habitat preferences of the Banded Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120:205-209. PDF


Karubian, J., L. Carrasco, D. Cabrera, A. Cook, and J. Olivo. 2007. Nesting biology of the banded-ground cuckoo. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119(2):222-228. PDF


Karubian, J., J. Fabarra, D. Yunes, J. Jorgenson, D. Romo, and T.B. Smith. 2005. Temporal and spatial patterns of macaw abundance in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Condor 107(3):617-626. PDF